Or at least that seems to be the way our political arguments go. If you do not support Black Lives Matter you must be a fascist racist. If you talk up the value of universal healthcare, you must be a collectivist communist. What is behind this?
Non-thinking. That’s what. I don’t have to deal with you if I can quickly pigeon-hole you as part of some undifferentiated blob of losers and deplorables. That is not to say there are not a lot of deplorables out there.
Years ago on a listserv where I had championed approaches to foreign language teaching labeled “non-traditional,” I mentioned in the course of a discussion on education policies that I was a supporter of free-enterprise. One participant in the discussion, a very intelligent and sincere person, reacted to my statement this way: “Why Johnny, we hardly knew ye.” As if my being an advocate for non-traditional teaching methods guaranteed I was a leftist or anti-capitalist. Given the way Fox News has spent a couple of decades perpetuating stereotypes about liberals and Democrats, I thought I might just express how I react to current events within the liberal thought that I employ. After that, we can pull apart the ingredients of such thought and decide what ‘liberal thought’ consists of, at least in my case.
When I read and hear about Hong Kong residents being subjected to Chinese law, I get a chill. In fact, it is horrifying. Crimes in China are determined by the Leadership and the sentence is dictated by the Leadership. I cannot imagine living under such a regime. I have had it explained to me that the form of government doesn’t matter because life is pleasant in country X. Can the police arrest and beat you arbitrarily? Sure, but it’s nothing for YOU to worry about if you live there because you are an educated ex-patriate with money. That kind of indifference to the structure of a society, esp its laws, chills me. It’s the indifference of the non-voter, aka fat, dumb and happy. We say these people have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage.
But as a liberal, am I not pleased with China’s determination to spread the wealth and allow a degree of free enterprise? No, because it can be snatched away as soon as the Leadership feels threatened. Just as the Uighurs, Christians, Falun Gong adherents, southern tribal peoples, and Tibetans feel the bite of Beijing on their heels, so anyone can feel it if the Leadership senses a threat to its power, its hegemony. That’s why Hong Kong and Taiwan are suspect, they both offer a Chinese pattern cut from different cloth, not Communist but other. And it would not be different if the Hong Kongers embraced a form of Communism that deviated from what the Leadership endorses. The Evangelicals have a song, One, One Way, One Way to God. That is the idea aka my way or the highway. Only in China the highway leads to a reeducation camp.
I hope I am immune to the blandishments of security, wealth, status, etc. that authoritarian regimes hold out to conformists. Clearly I have accepted conditions in the past I would not now, e.g. my wife and I living in separate worlds during segregation that we broke down pretty much by accident. Other than that invitation to a church, I would have continued as a White person in a segregated society, albeit disposed to favor ending segregation. Delving deep I can say that it was not my status that kept me in a state of acceptance of the status quo, more like inertia. There were other White people actively combatting segregation. That is why I laugh when people assume I am free of so-called White guilt simply because I married into a Black family. I was forced to by love for a woman.
No one is immune to a deluge of propaganda. One day in 1963 I stopped reading the local paper, a conservative-leaning rag because I was half-way through an article on an international incident involving a U.S. naval vessel (it wasn’t the Pueblo; that was in ’68) and realized that I would probably see or hear nothing else but this article and it was probably biased, so I had better find a variety of sources on any issue. Thankfully, 30 years later the internet came along and saved us all.
The British have fallen under the sway of a populist, Boris Johnson, who may lead them to ruin. He started out as a reporter filing false reports about bureaucratic excesses of the EU in Brussels. The conservatives or Tories puffed up the reports despite their clear falsity much as Fox News does here and………. here’s the essence of the dynamic: the EU came to stand in for whatever culprit was making Brits feel bad. Europe became the “catch-all bogeyman of British life.” Stories like the EU requiring bananas be straight and the potato chip flavors beloved by Brits be eliminated were circulated by the press that, according to the reviewer of a book on this, tends Tory. [author Jonathon Freedland reviewing Middle England by Jonathon Coe, a novel] In this country, a couple of decades of Fox News plus right wing radio plus on-line insanity has convinced members of the public that government is the problem per Ronald Reagan and Grover Norquist (Reagan qualified his statement with “for now”). Trump is carrying out the stripping of government from any sector business would like totally open to exploitation.
This where liberals like me get set up as straw persons [see how liberal I am?] to represent all that has gone wrong with America. We hate America. Our professoriate is dominated by Communists and Socialists. Our politicians on the left are Communists and Socialists along with being corrupt (like those jihadi atheists). IOW, anyone who does not swear allegiance to John Wayne’s America is an enemy of the people. Five years ago I would have been branded a Jeremiah for saying this; three years into the Trump administration I am pressed to say something novel. No one could have invented this.